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That Old Silver Palate Standby: Chicken Marbella

I'm planning a Sunday Supper gathering for a bunch of us in a couple of weeks. Chicken Marbella will be the main dish. Any suggestions for a first course, sides, dessert? I love to cook, but I'm big on making things ahead (earlier in the day is fine) so I'm not too busy while guests are there.

Thanks so much.

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  1. Just made this for dinner last night, and served it with parmesan mashed potatoes and a fennel/kale stir fry, with sauteed shallots, fennel seeds, anise seeds, and lemon. For dessert it was lemon pudding cake with a rasberry sauce. It all worked well.

    I thought it useful to have something to contrast the sweetness of the chicken marbella, hence the bitter green of kale and the lemon pudding cake for dessert.

    Good luck.

    1. I make at least twice a year if not more, and this is what I always serve with it:

      I start with a green salad with a nice vinaigrette. I like to start this way because the upcoming dinner is so rich.

      With the chicken I serve Potatoes Daphnois (from Patricia Well’s A YEAR IN PROVENCE) and fresh green beans that I blanch, then toss in a skillet with olive oil and lemon juice, These three on the plate make a beautiful presentation and they go well together. And of course, lots of bread. I serve the extra juice in little ramekins next to the plate so everyone has plenty to dip into.

      For dessert, you can go simple, such as fruit and pecorino cheese sliced with a little honey drizzled on top. Or go the opposite with something like chocolate pots of crème.

      If you would like recipes, let me know.

      1. I've always wondered about the Chicken Marabella, is it worth the effort? Any good cooking tips?

        11 Replies
        1. re: Scagnetti

          There's very little effort in making it, you can make a large quantity in advanced and just bake before you need it. Plus, it can be served hot or cold. It's an easy go to dish when you don't want to be cooking while the guests arrive. I don't have tips for it because it's pretty fail-safe. You don't even have to be that precise in the amount of what you use, or what you use.

          1. re: Scagnetti

            It's really very easy. Just make a lot -- the leftovers are great too!

            1. re: valerie

              I agree with Valerie. It is ridiculously easy, particulary given how fancy it looks when finished/presented. And it tastes amazing the next few days afterwards as well.

            2. re: Scagnetti

              Definitely worth the effort--which, as others have mentioned, is minimal. Very tasty, and the leftovers are great.

              1. re: Scagnetti

                This dish is out of this world--everyone always raves about it. It's incredibly simple to prepare. The major prep (although you could hardly call it major) is done the day before you're going to serve it. I prefer to serve it hot, but room-temperature seconds never go begging. I always feel like I've cheated when I serve Chicken Marbella, because it is just so easy and it's received with such wild enthusiasm!

                I like to serve it with rice prepared with onions sautéed in butter, the rice sautéed briefly until coated with the onion/butter preparation, and then cooked until fluffy in a rich chicken stock. I also prepare fresh green beans to serve alongside--but I cut the raw green beans to 3" lengths, blanch a la Julia Child, chill, and stack like cordwood on a long narrow platter. I scatter home-roasted sweet red peppers along the top of the 'woodpile' and use homemade vinaigrette as the dressing. Serve cold. Rice, cold green beans, a good chewy baguette, and an oaky chardonnay--when's the party!

                Ahh but wait--dessert! How about Charlotte Malakoff? Heaven...

                1. re: cristina


                  I coudn't agree with you more about CM. A forever pal. Do you have a good recipe for Charlotte Malakoff?

                  1. re: onefineleo

                    I use one that's similar to this:

                    The differences between this recipe and mine:
                    --I use almonds, not hazelnuts
                    --I use Kirsch, not hazelnut liqueur
                    --I use the strawberries only as a garnish on top of the charlotte
                    --I often garnish the charlotte with blanched, slivered almonds instead
                    of strawberries

                    Ooh, what a decadent dessert--and one with a lot of WOW factor. It's not common on the dessert table, so it's classic without being a cliché.

                2. re: Scagnetti

                  I find the Chicken Marbella to be nauseating, and I am horrified every time I show up for a dinner party and someone serves it. I have to say that I do not understand what is appealing about this dish. It is extremely sweet, and I detest sweet food. I like to save my sugar for dessert.

                  1. re: roxlet

                    I leave out the sugar that they call for sprinkling over the chicken, which helps a lot. DId it accidentally the first time, and thought the fruit made it sweet enough. I use dried apricots as well as prunes which adds color and a little tartness. And I'm probably extra generous with the capers & olives, so I don't think my version comes out as sweet as the original. But if you're just not a fan of fruit & meat, this dish will never work for you.

                    1. re: roxlet

                      Never use cilantro and only use about a tsp. of sugar to correct the balance of flavor... that might work for you if you are willing to try again.

                  2. How about roasted brussel sprouts, spaghetti squash casserole, crusty bread as sides?

                    1. This recipe looks wonderful. While doing an online search for the recipe, I came across this article from Sheila Lukins on a complete meal to go with it... See link:

                      1. how about a braised vegetable that you can make ahead and heat up the day of....like cabbage or leeks?
                        you could also do a sort of potato gratin that can be prepared the day before....or a pureed sweet potato casserole?

                        1. I made this last night and served it with couscous. The couscous soaked up the sauce and tasted great.

                          1. I've always served with couscous...potatoes just seem 'wrong'

                            1. I love the recipe too. So easy and everyone loves it when you have a gang over for dinner. I serve with a green salad with lemony vinaigrette (for reasons mentioned by Tom P) and couscous. Braised veg or potatoes would seem too "same" on the plate to me. I bet the beet salad that Lukins herself suggests would be great.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: yumyum

                                I will have to try it with couscous, that is a great suggestion, debby and yumyum. Man, I bet the couscous just soaks up that juice something wonderful. Great suggestion. The reason I love the potaotes daphnois with the dish is because the dish itself, in a good way, not bad, is rich and oily and I like the contrast of the really creamy potatoes. They also taste good with the juice mixed in.

                                1. re: Tom P

                                  I made it tonight and served with the orange-scented couscous in Lukin's menu. Wonderful mix of flavors. Broccoli as a nod to something green. All looked pretty on the plate and tasted great! The beet salad is also very tasty and pretty with this meal.

                              2. Chicken Marbella is so fabulous. Polenta makes a good side dish and requires little effort. Not as heavy as potatoes. Sauteed bitter greens like kale, chard or broccoli rabe are also good, for the aforementioned reason of balancing the sweet. For dessert, a citrus ice with gingersnaps on the side, or something else with ginger in it.

                                1. CM is great with couscous and polenta as others have suggested; I also like it with bulgur pilaf. I second (third?) the recs for a strong-tasting green veg like roasted broccoli or green beans, or braised collards/kale.

                                  1. Thank you everyone for all these great ideas. I'm happy that this post seems to have introduced this wonderful recipe to some people. It is the ultimate easy, tasty, can't mess up, make-ahead dish that seems to be a universal hit. I'll let you know what I put together in the end (party is the 18th). I appreciate the guidance on bitter and sweetness and, of course, thanks to akp for the link to Ms. Lukins herself.

                                    1. I made a double recipe of Chicken Marbella over the weekend using Meyer Lemon juice instead of Vinegar. I also used the lemon zest, and Apricots and Prunes, and arranged paper thin slices of the Meyer Lemon over the Chicken before putting on the layer of Brown Sugar. It was the best version ever.

                                      I served it with Couscous with Golden Raisins and Toasted Pine Nuts.

                                      I served a Mesclun Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette with Pear, Hazelnuts, and Goat Cheese as a starter, and Roasted Pears in Honey and Red Wine as dessert.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Fleur

                                        (I know this was months ago....) How did you enjoy the Marbella with Meyer Lemon juice?? YUM. Great way to vary up an exquisite dish... I started making this in November (07) for Cookbook of the Month, and it is just divine. I love a dish that leaves me delightful leftovers that taste just as good, or better... a week when I make Marbella I am assured of a fabulous dinner, of course, and delicious lunches too! :)

                                      2. This looks great. I think it may hit the Jfood Sunday night Power Rotation.

                                        1. Has anyone tried to make chicken marabella with boneless, skinless chicken breasts (instead of WITH the skin and bones)? Will it turn out as well?

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: tpippins

                                            I've made it that way several times. There's enough juices etc to keep the chicken from drying out, and it's still very tasty!

                                            1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                              You have made this with boneless-skinless chicken breasts. I have 14 chicken breasts marinating since last night. I plan to bake them today and gently reheat tomorrow for a dinner party. Hope it won't be dry. Any suggestions?

                                            2. re: tpippins

                                              Here is an adapted version with boneless chicken breasts FYI

                                              1. re: flipkeat

                                                Have you ever tried it? Please see my post above. Thanks

                                                1. re: lweber

                                                  I have made the original recipe but not with boneless skinless breasts.
                                                  My feeble opinion would be to use the cooking time for the leites recipe instead of cooking the recipe for the real recipe time..
                                                  The Leite's recipe uses boneless skinless breasts...Don't overcook them the first time round if they are also going to be reheated the next day.

                                                  1. re: flipkeat

                                                    Do you know If Chicken Marbella leftovers freeze well?

                                                      1. re: sarah galvin

                                                        We've had pretty good luck freezing it. We just reheated some that had been vacuum-saved and frozen 3 years ago. Although we had to make more sauce (using the standard marinade ingredients but only a little brown sugar), the chicken parts were tender and tasty, and the sauce was great over couscous. (Vacuum-saving was the key.)

                                                        1. re: sarah galvin

                                                          Sarah: I haven't heard -- did you go to Paris at Christmas and eat those macarons?

                                              2. Wow, this does sound good. I love a recipe you can make ahead so you can socialize while you have people over. I found an adapted version over at Simply Recipes if anyone is interested.

                                                1. When the recipe calls for "pitted prunes" are they referring to the kind in liquid, or the dried kind?

                                                  5 Replies
                                                      1. re: Pate

                                                        Not really sure if they have liquid or not, but I've made it with the kind from the can.

                                                        1. re: valerie

                                                          I have a question about the olives. We live in a very small town and the only kind I could find were the pimento stuffed ones. Are these OK and should I remove the pimento?
                                                          Thanks for any help!

                                                          1. re: Hanky

                                                            I don't think it matters -- if you like the taste of pimento, just leave it in.

                                                      2. Chicken Marbella is a perpetual crowd pleaser. Even super picky eaters will eat the chicken and it smells super amazing when it is cooking. It is just as good whether it is marinated a few days ahead or 20 minutes before it goes in the oven. For large buffets, take each chicken breast and cut them in half crosswise, easier to eat and stretches the recipe by using half the amount of chicken breasts. I have made this using all chicken breasts, all thighs and a mixture of both and it is fantastic any way you make it. It really does take just one hour to cook no matter how crowded with chicken your pan is.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: loula22

                                                          Thought I would try chicken marbella for a baby shower next weekend. We expect 30 women and are planning on a buffett. Any suggestions on how many pounds of boneless chicken breasts I need to purchase? Our local butcher has great chicken breasts for 1.99 per lb thru tomorrow, so I would like to stock up. Thank you.

                                                          1. re: LaxMom3

                                                            baby shower - expect 30 women!

                                                            People always eat more when they are out. 3 oz is the recommended serving of meat but I would buy more than that. Perhaps 1/2 lb per person. That would be ample. Even 10-12 lbs would probably be enough.

                                                            1. re: LaxMom3

                                                              This chicken tastes better when using bone-in chicken.

                                                              1. re: walker

                                                                I've had good results for potlucks with boneless chicken. And might be easier to serve and eat in a large group depending on seating arrangements. There is a variant of this recipe online for boneless chicken. Here it is:

                                                                (I personally leave the capers out but some love them.)

                                                          2. I've made this several times, but alter the recipe some. It's too much oregano and brown sugar for my tastes, so I reduce those significantly. I've also used different dried fruits -- figs tasted great but the texture created by the seeds was not good.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: weezycom

                                                              I have NEVER had this dish (and I've had it several times at dinner parties) when it wasn't overcooked and dry. Is that just a big hazard about making this recipe?

                                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                                When I make it, I only use chicken thighs, so they're less likely to dry out than breasts.

                                                                1. re: oakjoan

                                                                  The recipe says to use whole chickens cut into quarters. When I make it, it's not dry but I'm particular about where I buy chicken. I never freeze it and rec. buying from the best butcher in your town.

                                                                  1. re: walker

                                                                    I often don't do what the recipe tells me to do.

                                                                    But seriously, I prefer the serving size of chicken thighs to quartered chickens. Large eaters can take multiple pieces, small eaters are happy with just one. Plus they cook more uniformly than chicken quarters and don't dry out so easily as white meat, so I've never had a dried out meat problem. Much easier to mix & marinate too.

                                                                    1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                                      It's always come out moist when I make it too (which isn't too often). If making it for a lot of people, I use whole chickens cut into 8 pieces. So I end up with 16 pieces plus I usually throw in a couple of extra breasts since the white meat is always popular. I've never make it with boneless breasts -- I could see how those get dried out if cooked for too long.

                                                                  2. re: oakjoan

                                                                    Oakjoan, maybe the cook didn't marinate them long enough for the brining effect to take hold? Either that or the dish was overcooked. Or both!

                                                                2. I would suggest starting with a large fresh salad of mixed greens with shredded carrots, red pepper, onions, as you choose. I like to serve it with a Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette.

                                                                  I like a simple dessert like a fruit tart or sorbet and cookies.

                                                                  I am making it for a dinner next week. This time I am going to use dried plums which I soak in hot orange juice with a few prunes to plump them up,

                                                                  I leave out the capersd and olives, and instead of the brown sugar, I will substitute a jar of Bon Maman Damson Plum Jam.

                                                                  I have made it at one time or another with dried apricots, Meyer lemons, orange and orange Marmelade. The recipe just lends itself to variations, and it is always a big hit. I do not suggest freezing it. In my experience, it is not something that freezes well. You can make it 1, 2, 3, or 4 or more chickens, depending on the size of your crowd. Usuaally one chicken serves 3-6 as part of a larger meal.

                                                                  I always serve it with Couscous made with chicken stock, bay leaf, sweet spices, and with sauteed golden raisins and toasted pine nuts stirred in just before serving. Last time I topped it off with shaved Pistachio Nuts from Kalyustan which were an extravagance at $22 /lb,

                                                                  I usually use two chickens, organic free range , cut up by the butcher into 8 pieces, bone in. I agree with the OP about using the best quality chicken available. The supermarket chicken seems to have loads of water which releases and mushes up your dish.

                                                                  I do marnate one day in advance. I justr thriw the marinade in the blender, and pour it over the chicken in a jumbo size freezer zip-lock bag.